Maryland takes aim at invasive plants -- Gazette.Net


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This story was corrected on Dec. 4. An explanation follows the story.

Marylanders may know about kudzu, the invasive ivy that can be seen choking trees along highways from Texas to New England. But there are species imported from other regions or countries that also threaten the native landscape, and the Maryland Department of Agriculture is proposing regulations to identify and rank floral invaders.

In 2011, the General Assembly passed legislation establishing the Invasive Plants Advisory Committee, charging that committee with establishing a framework for assessing how much risk a given species poses to the environment.

The framework chosen by the committee is based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s weed risk assessment protocol, but also will take into account Maryland-specific risks.

The federal framework ranks a plant’s potential to spread, its economic impact and its risk of changing the environment or affecting human health.

Based on the risk assessment that the department adopts, invasive plants will be designated as either Tier 1 or Tier 2.

Under the regulations, Tier 1 plants will be banned from being sold, and Tier 2 plants will require labeling at the retail level. Landscapers also will be required to notify their clients of any Tier 2 plants being used, said Carol Holko, the Maryland Department of Agriculture assistant secretary for plant industries and pest management and a committee member.

“It’s to give consumers the chance to make an educated choice,” Holko said. “It gives us a chance to stop deliberate introduction of those plants.”

Invasive plants have been blamed for overrunning the territory of native plants and altering the ecology of an ecosystem. Invasive plants also can cause economic damage, as they can choke waterways and agricultural areas.

One invasive tree, the Chinese tree-of-heaven, is known to grow quickly in sidewalks or along building foundations, causing structural damage, according to Invasive.org, a joint project by the USDA and the University of Georgia. Chinese and Japanese wisterias, traditionally used as ornamental plantings trained to climb structures, are also invasive and can climb and choke native trees.

However, Holko said she would not speculate on which species would end up classified as Tier 1 or Tier 2 plants.

“I want to make sure we’re not jumping to any conclusions,” Holko said. “We’re going to just let this process play out.”

The department is taking public comment on the risk assessment regulations until Dec. 17.

hnunn@gazette.net

The story should have said that Carol Holko staffs the Invasive Plants Advisory Committee. The chair is Kerrie Kyde of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.